Vincenzo Barbetta, AB'99 MBA'05

Founding Chair, LGBT Alumni Network

Formally organized as a Chicago Affinity Group during the summer of 2009, UChicago LGBT Alumni has built on decades of efforts to strengthen relationships among the University's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) alumni. Equally, the group has sought to improve support for the LGBT community and communications with the University itself. One of the organization's cofounders and current chair, Vincenzo Barbetta, AB'99, MBA'05, had been a director of the Chicago-area alumni club since 2003; he signed up to work on the LGBT Alumni when an alumni relations staff member briefed club leaders about the new Chicago Affinity Groups program. With the critical combination of alumni leadership and staff support, the group launched very quickly.

"We packed the auditorium at the Center on Halsted for our first event," Barbetta recalls proudly of the reception and lecture on the struggle for gay marriage presented by Martha Nussbaum, the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics. The group chose to feature Professor Nussbaum because of her extensive research on the intersection of sexuality and the law.

Although building membership appeared to be a challenge for the LGBT Alumni, because the target audience is diffused throughout the alumni community, the group has expanded quickly. It now boasts more than 800 members and offers events in Austin, Boston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Washington, DC, and, most recently, Los Angeles. News of the group has spread by word of mouth as well as by online networking tools and the Alumni Association's e-mail blasts.

As more people learn of the LGBT Alumni, attend events, and get involved as volunteers, excitement grows. Feedback has been entirely positive, and formerly disengaged alumni are discovering the LGBT Alumni to be a new way to connect again with the University.

"When I hear stories of people who had lost their connection to the University, but, because of this group, are back in touch… that's very rewarding," says Barbetta.

This article was prepared for the ABG Connections newsletter, Spring 2011 Edition.